Indeed, I have coach-envy.
The only coach I have ever experienced pursued me down the left wing of the hockey field, fiercely whipping the back of my legs with the chord of his whistle, screaming things like, “draw your opposition before you pass, you useless idiot” or “move your great, clod-hopping feet around the ball, you clumsy mule”.
No gently probing one-on-ones had I with this coach, during which he asked me what I wanted from my future and encouraged me to achieve it. No helpful questioning from him to help me confront and overcome my fear of again breaking my nose (by taking his command to “keep your stupid eye on the ball” too literally). No neutral partnership had he and I that induced from me better performance and improved quality. (That came, but out of pure terror.)
Is it any wonder then, that I want to experience the 21st century variety of coach who, in their abundance, promise to “unleash the powers” within me, sans the whipping, screaming and insults? Yes, yes, yes! I too want someone to tenderly guide me to look at work issues from a different perspective. I want to be delicately steered towards understanding myself better so that I can comprehend the responses I evoke in my colleagues. I want a coach to kindly help me “identify my personal brand”, “pinpoint my blind spots” and “smooth out the rough edges”.
Or do I?
The truth is I may have coach-envy but that is outweighed by the fear of being coached. What if my personal brand is rotten to core? What if I discover my colleagues despise me, or think I am stupid (and can’t play hockey)? How will I cope if it evolves that the rough cannot be removed from my edges?
Experts on the subject say that coaching is most successful when there is unequivocal trust and total honesty between coach and coachee another at all costs. That requires a kind of courage that I don’t have. It’s pitiful, I know. I want the benefits promised by coaching, but I lack the nerve for what it may reveal.
But wait! All is not lost. Last week I received a call from someone who introduced herself as organiser coach. Wondering which of one of my smug and already happily coached friends had instigated the call, I was curious.
As an organiser coach, the caller told me, she would guide me to “arrange my surroundings and “better manage my time, life and business by helping me to systematise my priorities, goals and actions”. She would assist me to “de-clutter my life and free up my energy to become more productive”. She would even show me how to draw graphs of various statistics to help me work faster and handle problems quicker.
Finally, I thought, the coach for me: “Where do we begin?” I asked, excitedly.
“I’ll visit, get to know you, see just how much de-cluttering is required in your life and we’ll take it from there,” she replied.
The tremble that began in my stomach intensified as I glanced across the papered frenzy that is my office, printed rubble in every corner, computer chords coiled like sleeping serpents beneath every chair… the working space of a deranged woman?
Slowly, I returned the phone to its cradle, defeated and still uncoached.
(First published in Real Business in Business Day.)